March 1, 2007: Today I have finished the last of 3 mods for my Kenwood TS-870, which has turned this rig into a fine radio. The first modification allows transmitting outside of amateur radio bands and is described by W4NTW at various places. By removing R244 I can now transmit from 7.1 to 7.2 MHz, a new 40 meter segment.
I have always suffered from interference by loud signals during a contest, which made me decide to buy a pair of decent crystal filters (second modification), made by INRAD. The most noticable improvements: listening in CW with narrow bandwidths seems to be easier, phone QSO's sound a lot better. When you install these filters don't use the coaxial cables provided by inrad, they tend to short very easily. I also found it's better to install the filters sideways which makes installation a lot easier. Don't use the double stick tape provided by inrad, it won't stick!
The third modification comes from a kenwood technical bulletin and requires some soldering. It reduces RF amplification by 10 dB while allocating 10 dB more at the IF stages. This mod seems to be the hardest as it involves removing and soldering tiny SMT 0805 components.
| Mar 18, 2006: I have released version 2.0 of xdx today. This release was possible due to the contribution of Harry Popov, LZ1BB. Harry contacted me to see if xdx could be used as a on4kst chat client. One thing led to another and soon we were talking almost daily on ICQ to discuss possible changes to xdx. We now have configurable fonts, more linespacing in the chat window, a chat sidebar with the possibility to add highlights, colorized prompts, auto reconnect, keepalive packets and a new way of saving wwv data, just to name a few. The image on the left shows a plot done with gnuplot of almost 2 weeks of data from DK0WCY, collected with xdx. |
I have never liked development so much. Working on xdx in the past weeks has led me to believe this is the ultimate way of program development: direct feedback from users while working on an application. I intend to use IRC for this, see: irc.freenode.net, channel #xlog.
|Feb 20, 2006: Here's the front cover of my Ramsey SX-20, a QRP rig which I bought second hand recently for under 200 Euro. This rig produces 10 Watts RF on 20 meters and can operate both in SSB and CW. The rig was designed in the early nineties by Bruce Sidari, WA2TMC for Ramsey Electronics. It was taken out of production about 10 years later. However, documentation is still available from Ramsey for 10 $, although it took a few e-mails to get the schematic diagrams sent to me. I intend to make modifications to this rig, just for the fun of it. Please visit the PG4I SX-20 scrapbook pages for details.|
|Feb 17, 2006: I have been asking questions on the xlog-discussion mailing list regarding the future implementation of the xlog scoring window. The resulting mockup is on the left. The idea is to have a separate window for awards scoring, DXCC and locator lookups. The mockup shows worked and confirmed WAZ and DXCC scores for every mode on each band. Not surprisingly, people seem to want maximum flexibility, e.g. digital modes and RTTY included and bands like 50 and 144 MHz. This probably means I am going to add configuration possibilities in the preferences dialog, so people can leave out unwanted bands or modes.|
| Aug 9, 2005: It's been fun the last couple of weeks. I have been porting gpsk31 to version 2 of the GTK+ libraries. In the process of doing so, I have been fixing a lot of bugs and have added some features, the most important being integration with xlog. The true strength of gpsk31 is it's simplicity, being a single-mode program without any gnome dependencies. The GUI looks really nice and is easy to understand. All of the settings and buttons can be accessed with shortcuts and by opening the QSO details, you can use macro's like ~c, ~n and ~q for callsign, name and QTH. It needs a major on-air test, until now I have been making 2 QSO's with the new version. |
Haven't heard anything from Luc, LX2GT, who is the original author. Hopefully he will agree to release a new version. I have also offered to maintain gpsk31, since he has been focussing on programming a KDE based psk31 program called kpsk.
| Ubuntu linux for the very first time. I wanted to see what this popular desktop is all about and after all, it is Debian based, so configuration should not be a problem. It starts off with a text installer with automatic hardware detection. The hard part here is getting the network installation right, if there is no dhcp available. It looks like all packages are copied to the harddisk and after a reboot they are unpacked and configured. This takes quite some time. When the last package is done, gdm is started and you can login! |
Well, not really. The desktop just wouldn't appear and a faint prrrrrr... could be heard from the laptop speakers. So I opened a console session and killed esd (the gnome sound daemon) a couple of times. After this the gnome session started properly. Strange, because the CS46xx sound driver works okay with Debian installed. The standard Ubuntu gnome 2.10 desktop comes with a basic set of applications together with the OpenOffice suite. I didn't like the Ubuntu "Human" theme at all, so changed that to "Clearlooks". Synaptic can be used to install additional software. There are also updates available through the "Ubuntu Update Manager" from the system menu. Nicely done.
There are no hamradio packages available of course, so I downloaded xlog from the debian xlog page, together with hamlib3. This installed just fine, so this means we can use native debian packages, which is good news. So what about hardware support? I connected my cheapo Canon A300 PowerShot camera to the USB port and it just wouldn't get recognized by gthumb. Then I tried my EPSON Prefection 1260 USB scanner together with xsane, also a no-go. Both work fine on Debian.
Don't know how other distributions perform on this field. I know for certain that on Debian it takes a lot of reading to get these devices configured properly. I was hoping to get more out of Ubuntu somehow.
|Mar 25, 2005: It took a couple of evenings to get it going, but here it finally is, my first C# application: a simple convers client. Especially the threading stuff using ThreadNotify, which is needed by GTK#, took a while. You can compile this little application with: 'mcs mconvers.cs -r /usr/lib/mono/gtk-sharp/gtk-sharp.dll'. The resulting binary needs to be called with 'mconvers.exe [hostname] [port].|
| Mar 11, 2005: Been fooling around with antennavis and after 2 evenings of experimenting and reading source code I finally got some results from the program. I also managed to compile antennavis and create a debian package with the latest tcl/tk and togl-1.6. The picture on the left shows radiation pattern and current magnitude of a 6 element yagi. |
Antennavis should be called from the command line. Next you can load a nec input file and the geometry will be displayed. If we click on "Compute RF Field", nec will ask for an input and output file. The output file should be called output.nec. This file will be used by antennavis to display patterns and currents.
The software is still buggy and not all nec files can be loaded. But it's nice to watch results in 3D space and turn the figure around with the mouse.
|Mar 2, 2005: The keyer has evolved quite a bit. I have added F11 and F12, S&PTU and CQTU messages, short serial numbers and macros. The keyer now has 2 modes which it can run in: CQ mode and Search & Pound mode. Some effort has been done to make this compatible with tlf. I have run 3 contests so far with this setup and made about 60 QSO's in the UBA DX contest using S&P mode and about 50 QSO's operating for half an hour in the HSC CW contest using CQ mode. Finally something fun for the tlf people to look forward to.|
| Feb 20, 2005: This weekend has been the annual arrl-dx cw contest, so time for a little experiment: interfacing xlog with cwdaemon. The major goal has been to program an additional window so we can run in S&P mode. This works as follows: enter a callsign in the callsign field, hit enter, this will send F2 and will jump to the exchange field (myrst). When we fill in the multiplier and hit enter, F3 will be send (Still have to check the function key usage against existing programs). |
I have kept the interface simple: there is speed control and an auto-increment counter for exchanging numbers. No doubt I will add this keyer-window to xlog-1.2.
|QST magazine and on the web at technewsworld and linuxinsider about linux applications for hamradio operators. The article by is called "Linux Apps Automate Your Shack" and talks about hamlib, gmfsk and xlog. Finally some recognition from the many years of open-source development. I really like the conclusion of the article: "Linux is so ham-like with all the tinkering you can do, that I'm surprised it's not the ham operating system of choice." Thats sums it up pretty good!|
| Dec 4, 2004: Propagation during this year's CQWW-CW contest has been bad. 20 meters would open around 8 o'clock in eastern direction and close around 5 in the afternoon. There was no opening to Japan and I just barely managed to work VK and ZL. |
Just before the contest I have put up a 2 element zl-special for this band. This antenna has been made out of copper wire, using PVC spacers to create 2 phase-fed open dipoles. The feeding element has been connected with a standard twin-wire electric cord, using a 1:1 balun close to the rig to transform to 50 Ohm coaxial cable.
With this antenna and 100 Watts RF power I made 365 contacts with 80 countries and 25 zones. The cabrillo log is here.
| Nov 16, 2004: In order to check the xlog rpm file on the latest linux distributions, I have partitioned a spare harddisk for my Thinkpad 600X and installed Mandrake Community 10.1, Redhat Fedora Core 2 and SuSe Linux 9.2 on 3 different partitions of 2 GB each. This also allowed me to see what these distributions have to offer nowadays. |
Being a Debian user (and developer) for many years, the most striking thing is of course the graphical installer that these distros use. Both harddisk partitioning and installation of packages are very easy. Mandrake allows fine tuning of package installation to a very fine degree, whereas SuSe and Redhat add so many dependencies that you will end up with most of the partition filled, even for a simple desktop installation.
Suse insists on running suseconfig after every package installation, which I found very annoying. The use of Redhat's yum installer (inspired by debian's apt I guess) has been a real pain due to the slow downloading of packages. As for hardware detection, SuSe has been the only distro that correctly recognised and configured my Xircom PCMCIA network card with a 2.6 kernel. On Mandrake I could get the card to work by installing a 2.4 kernel, Redhat did not offer this possibility. Considering the desktop appearance, Redhat's Bluecurve theme for gnome is an absolute killer. There seems nothing which beats this theme, both in consistency and appearance. It has been such a pleasure to use that I now use it on Debian together with the XFCE 4.2 desktop.
I really would recommend trying the latest Mandrake. Installation is easy and package selection is much easier than Redhat or SuSe. Also, once you have configured net installation correctly, there is a huge amount of software available from the different mandrake mirrors. Of course, I will keep on using Debian. There is nothing which beats Debian's open development model and technical capabilities.
|Nov 4, 2004: I have been exchanging e-mails with Leigh, WA5ZNU about xdif. Leigh is attempting to create a XML standard for hamradio logbook applications. He has some good points. Looking at a sample log, you will see that besides the logging information, configuration and personal information can be saved. As I understand it, even custom program settings can be saved this way. This is such a good idea, I might use it as the default format for a future xlog version.|
| May 22, 2004: How I love screenshots! Here is an image sent to me by Matt, GW0VNR, which shows a prefect example of using free software for amateur radio usage. You can see xlog, xdx and grig running together on a freebsd KDE desktop. |
There have been a couple of new releases, xlog is at version 0.9.6, which now uses libgnomeprint for printing the log, the output looks great. In the last version I have added log sorting. You can enter QSO's with any date and using "Tools -> Sort Log by Date" from the menu to sort the log by date and time. xdx is now at version 1.2, which is mostly a bugfix release.
| Apr 27, 2004: Cwdaemon 0.8 has been released. This version integrates the unixcw-2.2 libraries by Simon Baldwin, G0FRD. This means we now have soundcard support and the previously reported choppiness is gone. Please download here. Here is are the most important parts of the changelog: |
* Weighting now uses a value of -50 to 50.
* 2 extra command line options: -v for volume and -x for sound device. Volume and device can also be controlled from within tlf.
* Tune (ESCc) now uses seconds as an argument, e.g. ESCc1 tunes 1 second, ESCc10 tunes 10 seconds. Maximum tune value is 10 seconds.
* A fix by Lada, OK1ZIA for big endian systems.
* Footswitch support by Wolf, DL2WRJ (pin 15 of the parallel port).
* New morse character '@' has been added.
* Process priority of cwdaemon can be set with the -P flag
| Apr 24, 2004: A new version of xlog (version 0.9.2) is released, which is mostly a bugfix release. This release has been made possible due to the many reports I have had on the xlog discussion mailing list. Contributions by WB5NHL, PA0R, DK5JG and IZ4FHT. Here is a short list of the most imported changes. You also might want to look at the complete changelog. |
* Fixed a bug for importing ADIF logs which have the TX_PWR field.
* Fixed 2 bugs for trlog import.
* Fixed printing for logs containing '&' and '_' in the remarks field.
* Fixed a couple of cabrillo export errors.
* Locale conversion is now handled better and a fallback is included.
* Fixed several crashes and many other bugs.
|Apr 16, 2004: Today received the KF8GR Linux Ham Award, for my contributions to linux ham radio. Here is what William says: Your applications (particularly XLog, which is a coup for Linux Hams), have filled niches that has contributed greatly to the Linux Ham Community. Just a few days ago, the Hamsoft Database, set up by Terry Dawson and me, got the same recognition. Thanks William!|
| Feb 17, 2004: Made 525 QSO's during 8 hours of operating in the PACC contest using the latest tlf and the cwdaemon beta. The screenshot shows saturday afternoon activity on 10 meters. It has been the first time I have used tlf in a major contest. Here is a list of things needed for the PACC: |
- Create a directory to run your contest in (e.g. pacc_2004).
- Make a directory called rules and copy /usr/share/tlf/rules/pacc_pa into this directory. This is for PA stations, use pacc_dx for other stations.
- Adapt rules/pacc_pa for your needs.
- Create a logcfg.dat, you can copy /usr/share/tlf/logcfg.dat and adapt it, here is the file used by me with hamlib support (every command on a new line): RULES=pacc_pa, CALL=PG4I, NETKEYER, RADIO_CONTROL, RIGMODEL=210, RIGSPEED=38400, RIGPORT=/dev/ttyS0, SHOW_FREQUENCY, SCOREWINDOW.
- Type 'tlf' and off you go!
|Feb 13, 2004: To prepare for the upcoming PACC contest, I have been building the S-match, a symmetric antenna tuner design by PA0FRI (original article here). It tunes my 2x20 meters dipole with open feeder to all bands between 1.8 and 30 MHz. It is an easy to build tuner which needs one tuning coil, one tuning capacitor and trifilar wound balun on a Amidon T200-2 toroid core. A major advantage of this tuner: it has only 2 knobs, which makes it very easy to use. Efficiency of this tuner is reasonable, considering it has less parts than the standard symmetric tuner. I have worked my first U.S. station on 160 meters with this design. For this band a fixed 150 pF MICA capacitor is switched in parallel to the tuning capacitor.|
| Jan 11, 2004: A new version of xlog is released (0.9.1) which fixes various bugs and adds 2 new features: showing/hiding of the toolbar (you can save some space on the screen) and saving of the state, size and position of the 'worked before' dialog. Here is the changelog: |
* Fixed a crash which would occur when clicking on the frequency button when hamlib is enabled.
* Cabrillo output would have a dot in the frequency field. Removed this.
* Size, position and state of the "worked before" dialog is now saved when showing and hiding this dialog. The main window will keep focus.
* Defaults now work when compiled with hamlib support and hamlib support is disabled.
* You can now use wildcards for the list of logs to load at startup in the preferences dialog. Extension .xlog will be automatically added when using wildcards, e.g. 'p*' will load all logs starting with 'p' and ending with '.xlog'.
* Fixed calculation of bearing and range to a location for stations west of greenwich. Reported by Steve, K9AN.
* You can now decide whether to show/hide the toolbar from the menu. You can still use Ctrl+A, Ctrl+U and Ctrl+D when the toolbar is hidden.
Download here. All my linux web pages have been moved off people.debian.org/~pa3aba and are now permanently hosted at qsl.net.
| Jan 9, 2004: I have finally gained access to the debian-archive again. I had to revoke my old pgp key after a compromise of several debian machines and created a new key, which got accepted. So, I have fixed a release-critical bug in the linwsjt package, an important bug in the fbb package and uploaded new versions of tlf and tlfmanual. Also uploaded a new klog package for Jaime, EA4TV. I guess the next thing to work on are the numerous bugs reported against unixcw. |
|Jan 7, 2004: Received 2 QSLs for my cw DXCC: #248 being vk9cd (Cocos Keeling), a dx-pedition by a group of germans and #249 is bq9p (Pratas), done by a international group of operators. Both contacts were made on October 13, 2003 with simple dipole antenna's. Curiously enough, sunspot data at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show a severe drop in sunspot numbers on this day. I guess less sunspots means less absorption of radiowaves?|
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